Collaborative Research Centre (SFB 874)


Tegenthoff (A1), Jancke (A2), Dinse/Höffken (A5), Pleger (A10)
Neuronal Processing and Integration of Sensory Information

Research Area A of the SFB 874 focuses on the conditions that enable neuronal processing and integration of sensory information. In close collaborations with the research groups of the Bergmannsheil, we address the following questions: How does visual perceptual learning interact with plastic changes and excitability in human visual cortex? (A1). How stable and how changeable are cortical maps? (A2). How are bottom-up and top-down modulatory effects involved in cortical and behavioral correlates of somatosensory plasticity? (A5). How does internal evaluation of sensory processes shape learning and training in the form of a sensory prediction error? (A11). We address these questions using various up-to-date imaging methods (ranging from fMRI to optogenetic optical imaging approaches) in combination with behavioral assessments.

Collaborative Research Centre (SFB 874)

Stability and plasticity of activity and specificity maps in early visual cortex

At early cortical processing stages, sensory modalities are mapped across topographically organized neuronal networks. It was long believed that connectivity within such early feature maps is fixed after critical periods in development. In contrast, we show that V1 (primary visual cortex) map layout can still be reorganized in a specific manner through modulation of cortical excitability. We apply voltage-sensitive dye optical imaging (VSDI) to capture modifications of cortical maps during either postlesional reorganisation or non-invasive interventions with controlled visual and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) protocols. The underlying mechanisms have practical implications for perceptual learning and rehabilitation in traumatic or neurodegenerative impairment of the brain.

German-Israeli Cooperation

Decoding Visual Content and Perception

Dirk Jancke (Bernstein Group Bochum, Ruhr Universität Bochum) is German coordinator of the new German-Israeli project "Decoding visual content and perception from neuronal population activity in visual cortex: VSDI, fMRI and computational modelling" (January 2012).

How does our brain construct a robust image from the plethora of light stimuli impinging onto the eye? In this complex process, widely branched networks of nerve cells are involved, whose cooperation is investigated in a new collaborative project carried out by researchers from Germany and Israel. The researchers combine functional magnetic resonance imaging with a novel imaging technique, that allows - thanks to light-emitting dyes - to track brain activity with high temporal and spatial resolution.

Besides the group of Dirk Jancke, John-Dylan Haynes from the Bernstein Center and the Charite-Universitätsmedizin Berlin and Israeli research teams around Hamutal Slovin (Bar-Ilan University) and Shimon Ulman (Weizmann Institute of Science) participate in the project.

Starting in January 2012, the project is funded for five years by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF) and the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) with around € 1.55 million. It is financed within the funding program "German-Israeli Project Cooperation" ("Deutsch-Israelische Projektkooperation", DIP) that fosters interdisciplinary cutting-edge research in both countries.

Read more in the complete press release by the Ruhr Universität Bochum (in German).

Bringing Light into the Brain

DFG supports new Priority Program with 8 Million Euro

Resolving and manipulating neuronal networks in the mammalian brain: from correlative to causal analysis
RUB Neuroscientists will develop combined optogenetic and imaging approaches

The common aim of the newly established DFG Priority Program is to investigate interactions between nerve cells and thier impact on network activities across the brain. Central questions focus on the relationship between the complex processing within the brain and behavior.

Contributing scientists from the RUB are the work groups of Prof. Dr. Stefan Herlitze (Lehrstuhl für Allgemeine Zoologie und Neurobiologie) and PD Dr. Dirk Jancke (Optical Imaging Group, Institut für Neuroinformatik). In our project we plan to specifically target Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that influences emotions and memory function within the brain in manifold ways. Dysfunction in the regulation of Serotonin levels plays an important role in the pathogenesis of neurophysiological disorders like migraine and depression.

In total, 12 collaborative groups, distributed across German Universities and Max-Planck Institutes, have been awarded. One aspect common to all groups is to specifically target brain activity and to understand the resulting neuronal network dynamics.

In the new priority program (SPP 1665), the groups were established in the form of so-called “Troika” collaborations. In these, the members develop new tools to manipulate brain activity, to engineer new methods for monitoring, and to generalize the data within mathematical modeling frameworks.

Together with our partners of the University of Osnabrück, we aim at investigating the role of interactions between different brain regions and their impact on motor action planning and learning. Specifically, we address the question how Serotonin modulates sensory and motor processing. Sensation and motor action is influenced through emotional factors like motivation, anger, fear, or attention. There is not much knowledge of how modulation of these factors by serotonergic action affects quantities of sensory-motor integration as anticipation, adaptation, and learning. In our project, serotonergic brain cells will selectively be activated or inhibited using optogenetics. Additionally, voltage-sensitive dye imaging (VSDI) will be used to record neuronal activity across several square millimeters of the brain with high spatial and temporal resolutions. Thus, with the combined application of these techniques we are enabled to selectively activate particular neuronal receptor types and specific network elements (e.g. layerspecific, excitatory, inhibitory), and on the other hand, we measure their impact on the entire network in real time.

In cooperation with Prof. Dr. Peter König, Universität Osnabrück, the obtained results shall guide the development of new theoretical models that describe serotonergic modulation of brain activity in mathematical terms. These findings, this is our hope, will also have further practical implications for the treatment of Serotonin-dependent neurophysiological disorders.

Collaborations at Ruhr-University
Gregor Schöner, Dept. Neuroinformatics, Bochum, Germany (theories of dynamic neural network interactions)
Christian Igel, Dept. Neuroinformatics, Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany (evolving neural network dynamics)
Ulf Eysel, Dept. Neurophysiology, Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany (cortical reorganization after retinal lesions)
Onur Güntürkün, Dept. Biopsychology,Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany (working memory)
Hubert Dinse, Dept. Neuroinformatics, Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany (cortical plasticity)Hanns Hatt,Dept. Cellphysiology, Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany (olfactory function)
Klaus-Peter Hoffmann, Dept. Neurobiology, Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany (mechanisms of direction selectivity)
Uwe an der Heiden, Mathematik und Theorie komplexer Systeme, Universität Witten/Herdecke
Ulrich Pardey, Institut für Philosophie, Logik und Sprachphilosophie
Stefan Herlitze, Dept. General Zoology and Neurobiology,
Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany (optogenetics, SPP-1665)

National & International Collaborations

Amiram Grinvald, Weizmann Institute, Israel (cortical correlates of visual perception, natural scenes, SPP-1665)
Peter Köni
g,Selim Onat,Dept. Cognitive Science, University of Osnabrück, Germany (natural scenes)
Dahlia Sharon, Center for Biomedical Imaging, Charlestown, USA (spatio-temporal cortical dynamics)

Frédéric Chavane, C.N.R.S., Marseille, France (function of long-range horizontal cortical connections)
Siegrid Löwel, Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology, Magdeburg, Germany (visual development and plasticity) 
Thomas Wennekers, Andrew Symes, Centre for Theoretical and Computational Neuroscience, Plymouth, UK (modelling large scale dynamics in V1)

Yves Frégnac, C.N.R.S., Gif-sur-Yvette, France (visual motion)
Wolfram Erlhagen, Guimarães, Portugal (modeling visual motion)
Howard Hock, Dept. of Psychology, Florida Atlantic University, USA (psychophysics of motion)
Shimon Ullman, Dept. of Computer Science & Applied Mathematics,
Weizmann Institut, Israel
John-Dylan Haynes, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Bernsstein Center for Computational Neuroscience (DIP)
Hamutal Slovin, Imaging & Miscroscopy Research, Bar-Ilan University, Israel (DIP)

PD Dr. Dirk Jancke

Institut für Neuroinformatik NB2/27
Ruhr University Bochum
44780 Bochum

Phone Lab:+49 (0)234 32 28967
Phone Office: +49 (0)234-32-27845